"Slow Fade to a Young Death"
What You Need To Know:
NEVER LET ME GO gives viewers a false hope that Cathy and Tommy love might get them a donation deferment, but, as one bureaucrat points out, clones don’t have souls. Though it’s set up as some kind of romantic mystery, NEVER LET ME GO keeps undercutting the mystery by focusing on its petty personal melodramas, which are less interesting though well acted. The slow pace doesn’t help. This movie also has strong sexual content and explicit nudity in one sequence.
(RoRo, C, B, L, VV, SS, NN, MM) Strong Romantic worldview where, in an alternate history, human clones are brainwashed to accept their terrible fate – death at a young age by two to four organ donations, with the story focusing on two clones in love, plus talk about having a soul or not having a soul and woman confesses and asks forgiveness while trying to make things right; no obscenities and two light profanities; no really graphic violence but blurry operations with some blood shown, surgeons prep man for surgery, scenes in hospitals and angry boy accidentally hits girl; two depicted scenes of fornication (one very short), sounds of sex heard, implied fornication, kissing, and girl looks through nude photos in magazine, apparently comparing herself to others; images of upper female nudity in nude magazine; no alcohol use; no smoking; and, jealousy, envy, brainwashing, tyranny, and timidity in the face of tyranny.
Though it has some excellent acting, NEVER LET ME GO doesn’t quite work. It doesn’t really tell viewers where it may be going until late in the first act, but it also starts with a flashback that destroys much of the mystery at the heart of the second and third acts. The fact that the ending is also depressing and that the movie’s pace is often slow makes the whole movie seem more like an acquired taste that likely will fade in time, as far as film history is concerned.
Set in an alternate reality, the movie opens with Cathy H. watching as her friend, Tommy D., gets ready to donate an organ in an operating room. Apparently, in this world, certain young people are bred to donate organs until they die, usually during the fourth organ donation, and Cathy cares for them as they do.
Jump back to 1978 where young Cathy and Tommy are spending their childhood at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. Cathy likes Tommy, who’s having a difficult time in school, but Cathy’s roommate, Ruth, steals Tommy away from her. Meanwhile, a teacher gets fired for telling Cathy and the other students that they have no real future because society has condemned all of the students to be young organ donors.
After leaving boarding school, Cathy, Tommy and Ruth are sent to live in cottages. There, Tommy and Ruth carry on a torrid affair while Cathy pines for the day when they will break up. Then, some other young organ donors in the cottages tell this love triangle that one’s organ donations can be deferred if two organ donors honestly fall in love.
Eventually, Cathy becomes a care-giver for the donors, which is the only way to defer her own organ donations for a few years. Also, Tommy and Ruth break up, and the three friends go their separate ways.
In her new job, Cathy discovers Ruth barely has survived her second donation. She visits Ruth, who says they should visit Tommy. While visiting Tommy, Ruth confesses she never really loved Tommy but was only jealous of his friendship with Cathy. She gives them the address of the one person who may be able to get them the alleged donation deferment for true love.
The filmmakers never really tell viewers this, but Cathy, Tommy and Ruth are all supposed to be clones. Though the movie leaves a couple clues to this effect, the clues are really obscure, which makes the movie’s story somewhat infuriating. The filmmakers should never have revealed the opening hospital scene with the adult Cathy and Tommy. Instead, it should have kept viewers guessing about what’s occurring in this society while revealing the truth sporadically in more dramatic ways. That’s the way really good mysteries work.
Instead of doing this, the movie gives viewers a depressing, one-note portrayal of romantic love and loss. The movie’s slow pace just exacerbates the grey quality of its story. And, the fact that none of the main characters and only the one teacher fights against the tyranny in the story just adds to the ponderous tone. In the end, Cathy and Tommy’s desire to escape the donation program seems purely a selfish one. They show no interest in stopping the program altogether to help everybody, not just themselves, much less helping other people escape the program. It’s highly doubtful that most moviegoers will respond to such timid, selfish characters wrapped up so much in themselves and their own feelings. That said, the character of Ruth becomes admirable as she tries to right the wrong she did.
Happily, NEVER LET ME GO has very little foul language, but it does have some strong sexual content and nudity. Extreme caution, therefore, is warranted.